The pear block is out today as the weather gets colder but brighter. It is good for it to finish itself rather than me impose an end upon it, but the forms are gradually resolving. The figure will become more thin and tree like – the visual balance is still not quite right.
It is over a week since I left Herefordshire, drained from the intensive process of making but, conversely, invigorated. After the diversion of carving and delivering a lettered slate plaque, I unwrapped the pear wood block to scrutinise the forms that have emerged. The limewood, Whole, had real ownership of the Cart Shed participants who gave it a steer. The finishing stages of the pear will be a more lonely process.
I had just read the latest blog post by Keith Foskett, whose imagery had steered the beginning of the block and whose latest trip report added a prescient nudge for me.
Coming home, I’d also been itching to re-read Richard Mabey’s Nature Cure, his 2005 autobiographical journal of overcoming depression through a love of nature and a re-awakening of the imagination. He had at one point found himself in the same hospital in Northampton as the poet John Clare who had written so powerfully about nature and the loss of rural ways nearly 200 years earlier.
The ‘other’ side of the pear has the beginnings of a single figure and interlocking trees, yet the mass available for the emergent female figure is woefully deficient. With head at the top of the block and feet at the base, ‘she’ becomes more willowy and tree-like to cope with the lack of carving material in crucial areas. However, Michelangelo managed to resolve the compromised Duccio block which was heavily worked into by a previous sculptor then (twice) abandoned, rendering it useless for a conventional figure.
And yet, with persistence, his David resulted.
The last day of work amidst a busy Out of Nature exhibition and then followed on Monday by a teaching day with Almeley and Monmouth schools who were experiencing the qualities of form, which enable sculptures to be visually strong without the need for concept.
This blog will continue at a slower pace, but in the meantime, do visit Newport House before the end of the exhibition to see the completed limewood work which has emerged at the Gardener’s Cottage porch in the Walled Garden over the first half of the exhibition. Newport House has been a very special community to be part of for a short, concentrated period. You can experience it – and meet the people who make it all possible – through viewing all the sculptures across the gardens, buying plants in the walled garden and relaxing in the cafe for a break during your visit. Pop in to find out more about The Cart Shed’s work in their demonstration area near the food tent.
The Cart Shed face of the lime plank is starting to resolve. A central figure – and the attitude of the block/board – has been influenced by a split in the wood from the base upwards, giving division into what have become legs.
The single figure implies linkage to the imagery on the obverse, another single figure.
The other supporting heads are equally faceless, hopefully implying community/togetherness but without having to veer further towards the representational – the composition is already complex with fire, Cart Shed-distinctive tools, a (small) steaming cup and split log.
The sculptor is, of course, male, and art is often semi-autobiographical; we draw on what we know in intuitive working. My questions tomorrow morning might be:
Will a softening of the shoulder line weaken the composition in favour of equality?
Are the simple heads and strong necks merely indicative of self-confidence and self-esteem? (something I’ve been conscious to try to achieve through upright stance and posture after an earlier conversation with a former occupational therapist on one of my West Dean teaching days).
Does considering all the above compromise the very imagery that has arisen in the first place?
My first action regardless will be to create a division between the central head and its neck – recessing the neck back into the relief – to follow the idiom applied with other heads.
But what are your thoughts? Art always stimulates discussion and whilst it should never be committee-led, it is an interesting point raised for something which could have value in spreading a message further and wider.
Sunrise. In the spirit of discovery, I walked up to the big house for the 8am yoga session – not something I had experienced before. I thought it might rejuvenate my aching arms from yesterday when in fact I found that several of the routines were an agonising equivalent of my carving. But it was a contemplative hour, if somewhat hampered by my inadequacy to be grounded, through inflexible muscle groups. I have moved from unconscious to conscious incompetence, which is a start. Inner poise is something that sculptures also need to have (and often do not).
After a low day resolving forms yesterday, I got on with the necessary removal from the block and started to feel that the limewood work is coming together. The Cart Shed award ceremony approached. Lady Darnley, the Queen’s representative in Herefordshire, was to present them the Queen’s Award for Voluntary Services, the organisational equivalent of the CBE.
Beforehand, a few people connected with the Cart Shed passed through the walled garden and I quizzed one on my issue with one side of the sculpture. The panel presently has a figure at the base in low relief, its surface being the sawn marks of the original board. At the top, a reaching arm – an addition of hope into otherwise sad imagery – is in three dimensions. It is a contrast of idiom or style, and the composition could thus be seen as weak.
The volunteer, without so much as a pause, echoed that two-dimensionality was exactly what one experienced in low moments, if one felt any dimension at all.
And that was all that was needed.
The other block? As the lime has started to resolve, the pear has made me realise it was necessary for development of the ‘pit’ imagery, but that it is developing a broader focus than The Cart Shed, is in a material foreign to Herefordshire, and has an initial impetus from elsewhere. Its despair imagery (below) may be too intense and with no inter-connecting link between that and the obverse. Adding an element might over complicate and perhaps destroy the work.
They are parting company gradually, but the pear will always be connected.